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House Kardashian is a large clan in westeros that is made up of different clans, each further broken down into different families. Members of this house have genes which allows them to access Mana through rituals, creating magical effects. These rituals are complex and time consuming, requiring access to different materials. Girls have the ability to utilize magic and become witches. Boys cannot access magic due to an ancient curse, and take up other roles in society.

Men and women occupy different roles in society due to one having magic and the other Lacking it. Because only girls are able to use magic, they are raised by their mothers and their relatives. They are considered part of that lineage, and are the rightful heirs to that lineage and family name. Any males that are born are sent to live in creches, growing up in groups of men and raised communally. These boys are Raised by older men from older creches for the benefit of their clan. For this reason, they are referred to as "sons of society" and considered as belonging to the house itself rather than a particular family. However, they occupy other positions of power that are necessary to make the system work. Guarding the walls, training the horses, collecting taxes, managing the gathering of these ingredients, and other forms of skilled labor successfully maintain the infrastructure and allow it to grow.

As you can see, man's contributions to their house and to witches are necessary in order for the system to be sustained. However, necessary is not always treated as essential, and value is not usually distributed fairly among sexes. I don't want males to be seen as lesser valued or slaves to witches. How can this setup be made equally balanced between the sexes and valued according to their merit?

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    $\begingroup$ It seems impossible. How can people be treated equally, but raised differently? Seems like a contradiction to me. $\endgroup$ – Ryan_L Dec 3 '19 at 3:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Ryan_L not necessarily a contradiction. You might need unequal raising in order to produce equal results in the end. For example, a more violent youth would need to be taught a lot more about being peaceful, while a naturally calm and collected child doesn't need to. The latter might need guidance to be more assertive, however. That's unequal raising of children but the aim is to produce members of society who acts within the society's norms - not too passive, not too aggressive. Whether that works in the long term is a different matter, however. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Dec 3 '19 at 6:40
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    $\begingroup$ As a bit of a frame challenge, are you open to solutions where men and women are incomparable, rather than equal? That is, not less than, nor greater than, but not equal either. See posets for a mathematical structure which supports such a relation. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 3 '19 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Ryan_L you may have heard of the phrase "separate but equal" before. Not so much a contradiction as a deliberate misnomer. See also: doublethink. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Dec 3 '19 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ You seem to have engineered a setup where men have strength but no magic, and women have magic but (you don't say as much but assuming no other drastic changes to biology) are at least on average physically less strong, and are asking how to make the grnders equally valued. This is a question relevant to every RPG designer ever - how to balance stam and mag classes. It will come down to how magic works. If a witch can click her fingers and magically wipe out an army, men will never reach parity: if magic is extremely weak or impractical then women never will. $\endgroup$ – SO failed us all... Bye... Dec 4 '19 at 13:24

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General thoughts

You ask about balance. Balance of what, exactly? Financial power? Military power? Authority? There's no inherent reason that the witches would have access to any of those things. If magic obviates those forces, there are deeper problems with your setup.

Assuming it is a feudal society that interacts with the rest of Westeros, it exists in a pretty sexist system. So the men will be necessary, at least, to interact with outside society. And outside kings will figure out if they are talking to some little chump with no decision making power, so it must be the case that there exists positions of legitimate power for the men.

However, necessary is not always treated as essential, and value is not usually distributed fairly among sexes. How can this setup, where men and women occupy different roles in society because of their sex, be written in a way where everyone is treated equally and valued according to their merit?

The balance of power can be where you put it, depending on how powerful you make the magic (although it seem really unlikely that people will be treated according purely to merit in this medieval society, given that we haven't hit that by modern times -- there will always be a system of patronage/favoritism/politicking). If the separation needs to be so great that the male/female hierarchies are completely non-overlapping, just make sure to show people of similar ranks within their hierarchies. If the High Witch really more highly ranked than the Head Diplomat, on the high council? Hope the spells can prevent an invasion when she over-rules him!

Regarding the lineage

The "sons of society" idea is interesting. I'm not sure what the overall political structure of this House is. But I'm assuming the there's some kind of hierarchy. Presumably, there's some Top Queen and having a person from your clan as the queen confers some perks (depending on where on the spectrum of "absolute monarch" to "first among equals" the position is, it may not be the most important thing, but it still don't hurt to be the boss). Thus, there'd be some political jockeying for the position.

If men are raised as "sons of society" in some clan-agnostic setting (the nature of this neutrality is left to the author and probably will be a good source of a Big Dramatic Moment, sort of like The Watch picking sides), they would probably be trusted to fill in as the neutral bureaucratic layer of the society. A high ranking, ostensibly neutral bureaucratic functionary can be very powerful. See Baelish or Varys.

Another aspect of this could be: are there nobility at all in this house? It could, of course, be a totally flat structure of equals living in egalitarian bliss, but that doesn't fit in with the Westeros vibe at all (and there'd still need to be a high queen of sorts just to be the boss for quick decisions, so this wouldn't negate the previous paragraph). But if there are nobles and peasants, this brings up two thoughts.

First, assuming the noble men are still considered nobles, they still have value. That is, a noble woman will presumably want a noble husband to produce noble children. So, they are at least in as good a position as noble women in conventional feudal society. Not great, but something. Further, because they are "sons of society" the trading for alliances that noble women were subject to historically is not really relevant. As a result, they will have to be judged by some other merits. This would seem to make them more independent -- their value must be somehow linked to something they did, presumably a powerful fighter or brilliant bureaucrat will be seen as a particularly good suitor. Because competence follows interest, it seems likely that they'll have enough flexibility to follow their passions at least. Sidenote -- in this case, the "sons of society" system could be seen as something of a protective union for the dudes. Perhaps they set it up like this to prevent the kind of treatment women are subject to in normal feudal society.

Second, if there are peasants, it is in all the nobility's best interest to draw a line between the two. Noble men wouldn't be, in the very least, relegated to the lowest levels of drudgery. That's what peasants are for. Or golems, depending on the magic.

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“Separate but equal” has not worked in any historical society I’ve heard of unless the two halves are in competition with each other. As long as the two halves are dependent, one half will generally become the decision maker, in my observation. The other solution, if you want equality between disparate-but-cooperative groups, you need division into thirds, fourths, or more to create political imbalance and shifting alliances (another form of competition, really).

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    $\begingroup$ These are statements I could back with citations, but I don’t feel like it today. If someone else shares my hypotheses and wants to fill in examples and references, I marked this answer as “community” so feel free to edit. $\endgroup$ – SRM Dec 3 '19 at 13:33
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You pretty much display men as property so how can they be equal to a woman in your setting? Seeing children are separated at birth and become children of society then perhaps a class system would be fitting?

That through a magical ritual (you got witches so) a test is done on the baby to determine it's potential and then get's separated in a class suiting for it where some classes (Political) are on (near) equal footing to women and get certain privileges. With the lower classes being seen as expendable?

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  1. Magical co-dependence. Only women can manifest mana into magical abilities and forms, but for some reason, whether before or after the curse was applied, some men are able to contain/produce a lot more mana, they simply cannot use it and can only transfer it to a woman. This means woman still have this power that men do not (a key part of your world-building) but also makes men an important component of that feature as well.

  2. Scarcity. For whatever reason, male children are more rare. Perhaps it's a quirk of conception on this planet. Perhaps more are stillborn, sages suspect due to the curse itself but who can say? This scarcity means they are highly sought after as companions/retainers, either for the conventional reasons or as mana-batteries, giving them a sense of personal and material value. But that depends on...

  3. A robust legal system or tradition that protects their legal and property rights. This means that despite their scarcity or necessity they still retain personal agency - their ability to choose who to pair/serve allows them to leverage this commodity in a bargaining sense.

  4. The method of power transference. Assuming that the mana-storage abilities of a man cannot be coerced or forced against his will, perhaps the transference works best when bonded in a close, personal relationship. Perhaps it is more efficient that way.

  5. A strong religious hierarchy that protects men or gives them some latent alternate power which challenges that of magic.

I would say in general, if magic is the ultimate power, you either need to establish a strong cultural norm and taboo to protect those without, there has to be a balancing and virtually equal power, the weaker party must have a numerical advantage, or there needs to be co-dependence. Without one of these things, or something like them, it'll be hard to understand why women don't just smack men around to get what they want.

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In the western world until few decades ago there was a strict separation of gender roles. Women were supposed to cover certain roles, men were given others.

And that was seen as "good and wise natural order", to be observed without objections.

Long story short, with the proper brainwash the masses can swallow any concept the higher up wants them to.

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    $\begingroup$ No, there was not a strict differentiation except in the very basic biological sense and some political components such as voting. Otherwise, women had long worked in factories, men had raised children, women ruled empires. They might have represented a minority, but it negates the argument there was "strict separation of gender roles" because it's trivial to find counterexamples. Some idiots may have wanted to pretend it was the good and wise natural order, but even at the time they were pontificating schmucks. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Dec 4 '19 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison Another example would be the Aborigines of Australia. In those cultures the separation of gender roles was extremely sharp. There were some tasks which we simply "mens tasks" and "womens tasks" and there was no flexing on the matter. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 4 '19 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison Strict is not the same as absolute. Strict in the sense that there was heavy pushback against anyone challenging the norms (ranging from social shunning to economic sanction to physical abuse and death) absolutely was the case, and remains the case in most of the world. $\endgroup$ – SRM Dec 11 '19 at 0:54
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TL;DR: To balance something which is unstable you need to figure out what unbalances it and fix that. Feel free to create a "problem" yourself and then provide the solution if that works well.

Unbalancing Forces

There are a variety of forces which can be said to cause gender recognition and power imbalances. I'll offer up my 2-cents below, but really you just need to pick 1 or 2 things that you think are influential (or which can sound convincing in a story) and work with that.

Most people want power. Power is relative; if everyone on earth became ten times more powerful tomorrow, it would seem great at first but after a while it would seem normal because everyone is still the same. To feel powerful, you generally need to feel superior to others.

Power can come in many forms, including strength, intellect, magical (as in your world), financial, celebrity, and you can probably come up with others.

Strength

Historically, physical strength was usually used to bully or eliminate competitors. This is just one contributing factor why men had most of the apparent power in Earth's history and why women were often second-class.

Finances

Once weapon technology advanced to the point where money could buy more power than big muscles could provide, finances became a dominating power-influencer. Since physical strength was still highly valued and males were already in the dominant position, this only had a limited impact on changing the gender dynamics.

Intellect

In the modern world, intellect and technological advancement often determine a nation's power, but since it is not the technology-producing individuals in charge of the nation this again had only limited effect on the gender dynamics. Finances and intellect brought about other changes in societal power dynamics, such as allowing lower and middle classes to raise themselves up, and these changes paved the way for the gender imbalance to be addressed.

Magic

In your world you are building, you have provided what could potentially be a massive new axis to the power struggle. If your magic is overwhelmingly powerful to the point of trumping all else, then it will be difficult for your people to find balance. You need to make the magic strong enough to be very useful, but weak enough that some other type of power can compete with it, such as strength.

Note that if the magic is not powerful enough it won't necessarily cause the females to take control and the males to be second-class. Simply having a unique ability doesn't necessarily grant power. In our world in reality, females already have some unique abilities that only they possess, but that did not stop them from being oppressed.

Balancing the forces

Video games already deal with this all the time

Now you just have to balance the forces. As Adrian mentioned in comment on the question, you could view this similar to how role-playing video games already do, simply by balancing magic to be on average comparable to physical strength. If one of your witches can easily toss up a magic shield to block the best man's attack and then incinerate him with a finger snap, but then is drained and cannot do that to 2 men in a row, then they are not unbalanced.

Create a historical reason why balance is maintained

This is a common theme in literature. "100 years ago ended the Great War. There was no victor, as all were devastated and ended the war in a truce which eventually led to an uneasy peace which lasts to this day." Then the story happens and all bets are off.

In your world it's more like "In a time before memory, magic was discovered. In this great family, all were held in high esteem for any could hold their own because of their magic power. That is, until the men were cursed and lost their magic. The women naturally took control, but the men would have none of this and fought back with sheer physical strength. This sad, bloody gender war did not last long, as it would be folly and suicidal to the clan to continue. In the end, both sides realized the need for the other and grew to respect each other. Several times thing have gotten tense again, but all the other side needs do is cease supporting the other and it quickly becomes apparent that they cannot function without working together."

You only need to have a few instances of power struggles in which each side loses a lot because of not working together to reinforce this even for the reader or viewer. Especially if the men can do the magic-ingredient procurement better, such as having the strength needed to mine the very tough magic stones needed by the females. All the men need to do is stop mining to leave the females powerless in a power struggle, but in general they don't want to because they benefit from the magic of the females because of the healing, fire-starting, etc..

Summary

Find a reason or excuse or two that the gender appreciation would be unbalanced, then find or create a fix or two for it. The two most direct ways are to either play on a past conflict where this problem has already been solved, or to create a reason why they both need each other (your description of male servants essentially is not really a need, they have to be able to do something the women can't, and it needs to be something that can be withheld for a power-play).

Easiest way is to play on the men's strength.

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Ask yourself this question: In your world, is there a difference between gender role and gender purpose?

Your question, generally speaking, needs a lot of other questions to be answered, but I like short poignant answers, so I'll try to keep mine brief.

The difficulty in the question you're asking is that you must first truly understand what you believe about gender in our world. This is a concept you're importing from another world. You could make genderless beings, or limit magic in some other way, you made the decision to do so this way. Why? This question is primary.

Whether you like gods or not, all stories have at least one. If there's not one explicitly included in the story, then it's you. So you could also ask the question, why did the god of your world make genders at all? Fair and balanced are completely relative terms. The creation might never be able to see the fairness or balance in a universe that they are only a small part of, in fact, this tool is used all the time in fiction. Give the reader only a part of the picture, only to reveal a greater truth later...

The real question is, what are you, the author or god of this world, trying to accomplish? Do you want the reader to see fairness and balance? Why? Do you want the characters to feel like their roles are fair and balanced? Why? Good worlds are built on tension and the masterful use of it. Gender is possibly the most natural source of tension that exists in our world. So I'm curious, if you're trying to remove the tension from gender, why use gender at all?

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Let's start from the beginning.

This:

Members of this house have genes which allows them to access Mana through rituals, creating magical effects.

and this:

Boys cannot access magic due to an ancient curse

are two extremely important pieces of information.

The first suggests that this House was evolved to possess magical abilities, through natural selection. This whole reply is based on this assumption. You can disregard this if the genes were altered by modern scientific abilities in order to gain these magical abilities.

The second says that at some point in the history, both males and females had the ability to produce magic, and the change was sudden.

I'm also going to assume that this is essentially humans we're talking about, and as such physically males and females of Kardashians are not dissimilar to males and females of our world.

Ancient Times

This society would have been different from an ancient human society in one major aspect.

There are two major reasons why most human societies all over the world are patriarchal; a) males are physically stronger and b) males produces billions of sperm while females produce a very limited amount of eggs, which are costly to produce. Due to the first reason, males are able to gain more power. Due to the second, females are required to take a much bigger burden on reproduction, need to be choosy when mating, and are required to devote a large portion of their time to child-raising in order to ensure their genes propagate.

In the world of Kardashians, the second would remain the same, but magic would compensate for their 'handicap' in the first (assuming male and female magic powers have no difference, and magic powers include ability to fight/kill with spells). This would mean that the society could still have been patriarchal, but not as much as ours. But more likely, gender would have played a far less important a role than in ours. Women would not have been at the mercy of men when it comes to physical power. This would mean that crowns may not have been inherited by the male first born, but the first born of any gender. There would have been female leaders throughout the history, who were emperors, warmongers, the works. And since this was an evolved trait, there's no reason to suspect that one gender would have been more 'resentful' of the other either. Gender would have been something that was necessary for reproduction, but not much else.

An important side-note:

You don't specify how magical abilities are inherited. Is it completely random (as in magic is depicted in most literature, such as Harry Potter world, where Muggles can give birth to Witches/Wizards and vise versa), or is magical ability strongly inherited such as our skin colors, general body types, etc? If it's the latter where magical ability is strongly inherited, in that two parents with high magical powers have a higher chance of producing offspring with high magical powers, then this world could end up significantly different. Early on in the evolution, less powerful individuals would have been quickly eliminated, but once they developed into societies, there's a possibility that much like in our ancient societies with power/money decided to marry within, these powerful individuals chose to marry within, creating different social classes with significantly different abilities, and it wouldn't take long for the powerful to 'enslave' the less powerful. This would throw everything off in your story, so I suggest we stay in a world where parents with powerful magic doesn't necessarily produce offspring with powerful magic.

Coming back to the topic, as gender roles would have been less important, there's no reason to suspect that there would have been communal raising of one gender and the like. Bottom line is, this would have been a society that was much more gender-equal (or more accurately, gender-inconsequential) up to the point where the curse would have been placed.

The Curse

Now we have a world which is more gender equal, but all of a sudden the game changes. Now only women have magical abilities in an otherwise equal society. Chaos will ensue; at first it would be confusion, and not long after, a power struggle. If, eventually, women figured out that they're now unimaginably powerful than the men, they are going to use that advantage. We may have our ethics and moral principals, but those lines get moved around all the time. Women wouldn't necessarily outright try to overpower men, but with that much power in hand, you would be able to 'force' men to do what you want. Imagine whatever the equivalent of their security council; it may have had an equal representation of males and females, but now with more power, it's natural that women would band together, and when it comes to important decisions, their say will probably have more weight. This would happen all over the society, not immediately but not too slowly either. Within few years (or decades at most) an inevitable power shift would happen. Sure, men would resist, and blood will be shed, but we know who's going to win.

Rearranging the Society

With this new balance of power in place over few generations, it's pretty easy to form the society you envision. It doesn't make much to 're-educate' a class of people, be it gender based or whatever else. Women would band together into families, and men banished to creches. Sure, you don't have to treat as slaves per se, but you can 're-educate' them into accepting their fate pretty quickly. Again, this would not be uniform and not without exceptions; human emotions would play an important roles, there will be star crossed lovers who resist the change, but eventually, power will trump. So we can imagine a society, a few decades later, maybe a century, where people live like the way you describe, but here's the crux of the matter:

Inequality you describe may not be seen as inequality. Men performing duties they are duty bound would be seen as 'natural', much as we saw, for centuries, women staying home and taking care of children as 'natural' while men went out to dominate the world. So, I can envision this society where men are still valued, but there can be no 'balance', because 'balance' doesn't even make sense. Men will have their place in the society, but women will rule.

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Focus on Balance of Power

So your society is broken down in a few ways. You have:

  • The House
  • Clans
  • Families

But we are most concerned about two specific groups: Men and Women.

Women

Based on your text above, due to their ability to utilize magic, women are going be individually more power due to magic, and each lead their own family. It is likely the families status will be driven by the individual in the family with the most magic. Your most powerful individuals in your society are likely to be women. Your house leader will be a woman, as are your clan leaders.

Men

Men do not belong to any specific family, instead they belong to an overarching collective that spans the entire house. This collective is responsible for raising children and can advocate for their members.

Find a Real World Example

In the real world, power is a messy thing that comes in many forms. Is there a real world example that balances power between strong individuals and large collectives?

Unions

The basic power structure you are looking for, doesn't come form political organizations, but rather the business world. Just organize your Sons of Society into a hyper-powerful union. Although women may be technically in charge, the collective power of the Sons of Society is more powerful than any specific mother or clan leader, except maybe the House Matriarch.

Why don't the women just form a more powerful union?

So let's look at the values women in your society are likely to have. As they have a family, a clan, and a house their loyalties are likely to follow this pattern, from most to least important:

  1. Family
  2. Clan
  3. House

As each family leader is most concerned about the people under her care, she will prioritize her needs over the needs of the group. Clan vs clan, and family vs family rivalries are likely common and make co-operation more difficult in all but the most dire of circumstances.

Now let's look at Men's values, from greatest to least

  1. Sons of Society
  2. House
  3. Clan
  4. Whichever family they are currently with

Here we get the men with the greatest loyalty to their own group. This is important, so if the Sons decide to order their members to shun a family or even an entire clan, they will follow. Maintaining the union would need to be a prime survival strategy, so those that refuse are likely killed or exiled.

What could the Sons do?

Without a strong nuclear family, the main power of the Sons is to withdraw from a family or clan that provokes their displeasure. This would have the effect of leaving the family or clan isolated, and childless. As your men have the best connections between clans, they are likely involved in trade, and those that go against them would be cut off from goods and services.

An embargoed family could ask other families for help, but other families are most concerned with themselves they wouldn't want to risk getting involved and having the embargo extend to them.

Why does the Matriarch Allow This?

So, if there is an extremely strong union of men, why doesn't the most powerful matriarch try to squash it? Look at the values between men and women and it becomes clear.

The clans and families value their own needs over the needs of the house. Effectively, they are constantly trying to pull away from the greater house to secure greater autonomy to make the best decisions for themselves.

The men, however, value the house over the clan or family. Thus for the Matriarch wanting to maintain power, the Sons of Society would become a key ally. It is both of their interests to keep the House in power and the Sons and unified force.

How this Looks on a Micro Level

At a micro level, this means that an family leader or clan leader may be seen as more important as the average man, they would follow the proper customs for the treatment of men lest they face the backlash. The Sons could easily force clan leaders to place them in positions of power (where culturally appropriate) and most inter-clan work, like trade, would be especially seen as a men's job.

Although this society is not perfectly balanced, men could reasonably hold positions of power, and would occupy the middle rung of this society, just below family leaders. Your lowest rung would be the un-unionized workers, in this case the women and girls who do not have a family of their own to lead. They would be forever at the disposal of their mothers, with no recourse for mistreatment.

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Forget about "Separate but Equal"

Why worry about "equal"? You need separate and different. No concept of "equality" at all. Men being equal with magic-using women?

You need, as you have established, separate and co-dependent populations. They need to depend on each other enough to prevent one side from simply killing all the others. Each side needs enough power to prevent it's own extermination, and enough benefit derived from the other to prevent them from exterminating the other.

You have the men being "useful" by being stronger and traditionally "male". The women are useful through whatever benefit the society derives from the use of magic. They are useful to each other for reproduction.

Don't let the stew ever stabilize

It could help to have a third source of threat that the males and females must cooperate to defeat. This could be another human thread, or perhaps an alien threat, or even an environmental threat. The threat should change rapidly enough to prevent any true stability, but not so rapidly changing as to keep everything in tumult. The changing disruption just keeps stirring the pot on the female/male mixture to keep it from settling out.

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The problem here is that separate but equal isn't.

I understand the desire to create this sort of bias in the opposite direction to most historical societies by creating a demand for something other than brute physical strength, but recreating this bias in a different way isn't the solution.

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